24 January 2023

How Wolverton once
had not just one but
two Methodist churches

Wolverton Methodist Church was rebuilt in 1892 to designs by the architect Ewan Harper of Birmingham (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Patrick Comerford

Wolverton once had two Methodist Churches, a Congregational Church, and Emmanuel Hall, which later developed into Wolverton Evangelical Church.

The founders of the Methodism, the brothers John and Charles Wesley, had notable early successes in their preaching in North Buckinghamshire, and the Wesleyans built a large number of new buildings in the area in the 19th century.

The first Methodist chapel in Stony Stratford was built in 1844 on what is now Silver Street. The Methodists in Wolverton at first went to the chapel Stony Stratford or met in one another’s homes. Within a few years, a reading room was converted for their use on Sundays and in 1870 a new Methodist church opened at the east end of Church Street.

Wolverton Methodist Church was rebuilt in 1892, designed by the architect Ewan Harper of Birmingham. Ewan and J Alfred Harper also designed the former Methodist Central Hall in Birmingham (1900-1903). The former Methodist Church in the heart of Wolverton once had a large Sunday School and it is one of the four major Grade II listed buildings in Wolverton.

The former Methodist Church on Church Street has interesting architectural features (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

The former church has a gable end facing the street with a square tower at west side. It is built in red-brick with stone dressings, decorated tracery and other ornament, strings, kneelers and coping. The central gabled pinch has crockets and finials with recessed entrances on the left and right. There is an ogee hood mould below the gable over a pointed arch on stone columns.

Other architectural features include tall decorated lancets, round windows, lancets with hood moulds that flank the porch, a coped gable with pinnacle, a three-stage tower with a belfry, louvred openings in paired round-headed windows, corner finials rise, a short parapet an ogee hood mould at the entrance to the tower, and a tiled roof with a spirelet on the ridge. The planned steeple as never built, but it is possible to imagine how tall it would have been what it might have looked like by careful attention to its hexagonal stone base.

This east end of Church Street has a mixture of historic buildings from the 19th and early 20th centuries, including the former Saint George’s Institute and the Methodist Church. However, since it closed, the former Methodist Church in Wolverton has suffered decades of neglect: holes appeared in a roof that was not repaired, Victorian airways and vents were covered over, and rain and the lack of ventilation causing major dry rot, brown rot along and other damage.

Around 2010 or 2011, the King’s Centre decided to buy and restore the building. The centre is intent on restoring the large front half of the church to full use and carrying out major renovations so that once the building can be used as the King’s Church.

The former Primitive Methodist Church at the corner of Church Street and Anson Road was built in 1907 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Meanwhile, the scout cabin on Green Lane, originally a hayloft, was used by the Primitive Methodist as a chapel until 1907. The upstairs room, known as ‘The Cabin’, then became the headquarters of the Wolverton scout troop from 1916 until 1939.

The chapel on Green Lane was replaced by a second Methodist chapel at the corner of Church Street and Anson Road. This chapel was built in 1907 and opened as West End Primitive Methodist Chapel.

The Wesleyan Methodists, the Primitive Methodists and the United Methodists came together in 1932 to form the Methodist Church of Great Britain.

The former Primitive Methodist Church at the corner of Church Street and Anson Road is now West End United Church, a Local Ecumenical Partnership formed in 2005 by the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church.

The United Reformed Church presence in Wolverton dates from the Congregational Church built in Wolverton in 1878. The red-brick church had a commanding position at the top of the Square, and there was a manse on Moon Street.

One of the pioneering ministers in the Congregational Church in Wolverton was the Revd Constance (Todd) Coltman (1889-1969), the first woman to be ordained in a mainstream Church in Britain

She had been brought up as a Presbyterian and was a suffragist and a pacifist. When she tried to explore a vocation to ordained ministry she met resistance from the Presbyterian Church of England. She then applied to Mansfield College, the Congregational college in Oxford, and was accepted because of her deep sense of God’s call, although there was no certainty that she would be ordained by the Congregationalists.

She was ordained alongside her fiancé, the Revd Claud Coltman, into the ministry of the Congregational Union on 17 September 1917. They married the following day, and Constance and Claud later ministered in Wolverton from 1932 to 1940.

The Congregational Church in Wolverton was pulled down in 1970 as part of the authorised demolition of Wolverton landmarks during the development of Milton Keynes. The church was replaced by a supermarket with some provision for church activity in an upper room.

Since January 2022, the minister of West End United Church is the Revd Jo Clare-Young, who trained at Westminster College, Cambridge. She is the Minister of Newport Pagnell United Reformed Church, the Mead Centre, Newport Pagnell and West End United Church, Wolverton.

West End United Church describes itself as ‘a friendly church aiming to serve the local community and encompassing all ages. Sunday services are at 10: 30am (with junior church), and the service on the second Sunday of the month is usually Holy Communion.

West End United Church in Wolverton is a Local Ecumenical Partnership formed by the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

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